Channel Islands
SportFishing

Orcas and California Gray Whales!

by Frank Ursitti Whale Watch/SeaFari Tours

January 20, 2013

This week has been one that we will not soon forget.
I was trying to figure out how to structure a blog based upon our observations and one could go many different directions. I just feel that I am fortunate to be able to observe things that many never will, and I hope those who have shared it with us realize how fortunate they are.

We encountered Orcas (or Killer Whales) in the wild this week on several occasions. Not the theme park variety, but the true, apex predator type. I mention the latter because while it is extraordinary to observe these magnificent animals, the behavior exhibited was uncharacteristic given the circumstances and the ultimate outcome.

                        

Earlier in the week, a pair was observed separating a mother from her calf. Typically, this type of behavior would end tragically with the calf being the spoils to the victor. This was not the case. We observed a pair of killers separate mom from calf. As expected, we observed a frantic not to be challenged 80,000lb mother fight off two predators and successfully free her baby from certain death.

                                                        
Orca & California Grey Whale                   

There were several fascinating side stories to this encounter. First, the baby Gray was but days old. Typically these whales are born in the protection of the shallow bays and lagoons of Baja, Mexico. As the years progress, we see more and more of these whale being born short of the mark…but that is for another blog.
The other side story is that the pair of marauding Orcas was identified as a pair of “orphaned” killers that had last been observed in Monterey back in May. There typically is little documented encounters with orphans who learn many of their skills from their parents. This pair had been separated for some time, but was back together and appeared to be honing their skills. Had they wanted, the new born calf, it could have been an easy kill.

Killer Whales and Gray Whale Calf
                                                   

Nature has a way of taking care of itself and the strong survive. This is what perpetuates a species. Many look at a species like the Gray and think docile, or boring. Mothers will fiercely defend their calves from predators, and this was no exception. She selflessly put herself in between the killers and the boat, and at one time shoved her calf against us providing a barrier. Ultimately, the Orcas gave up pursuit, and mom and calf headed towards Anacapa Island for sanctuary.

Today, we came upon 3 Orcas herding around 3 fully mature Gray that were obviously too much for the renegade predators to take down. Their behavior suggested they were attempting to tire the trio out before attempting any aggressive behavior. The tree remained strong and held ranks against the apex predators. It was extraordinary to observe their tactics under what are certain life and death scenarios. Having spent the majority of my life at sea, observing wildlife, this is the situation one can never take for granted. This is life. This is a true struggle. This is raw, pure, the essence of being. Fortunate are we who struggle every day to “survive”. Our consequence is never as dire as these incredible creatures.


We observed success stories this week. We will continue to observe all we can, as our season has just begun.
Take the adventure.
We depart daily through April. Give us a call at 805.382.1612 or book online!

Dolphins                                                                Sea Lions
          

See you onboard!

Captain Frank.